Teaching for Racial Justice

“When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”

-- Audre Lorde, A Litany for Survival

Anti-racist protests have expanded across the globe in response to the death of George Floyd and countless other People of Color at the hands of the police. The country’s entrenched history of institutionalized racism plays a role in each of our everyday lives.

Conversations around police brutality and racialized violence are likely to enter our classes. The Drake Institute for Teaching and Learning is committed to supporting instructors in anti-racist pedagogies as emotions and experiences around these events enter class interactions. 

Below is a handful of resources and guidelines to help teachers productively navigate these conversations in their courses. As always, consultants are available to work with you and/or your department to address these issues, and any other issues that may be shaping the teaching and learning environment in which we collectively strive for inclusive excellence.

Address problematic remarks in class

Rather than ignoring them, take time to address when a student or students have made a problematic remark. Doing so will model accountable behavior to students and helps avoid responsibility for correcting the remark falling on minoritized students’ shoulders.

Call In rather than Call Out

Calling out is an act of pointing out that another person is participating in an oppressive action. In contrast, Calling in is a deliberately compassionate practice of pulling folks back in when they stray from the group. 

Make boundaries clear to students ahead of conversation

Build up to potentially challenging conversations by clarifying language and etiquette with your students. Consider creating a classroom contract and/or discussion guidelines with students to guide them through these discussions.

Redirect rather than challenge comments

Pull the positive intentions out of what might be well-meaning but awkwardly worded comments. Help students to rephrase their statements more respectfully.

Focus on group and community learning

Rather than confronting an individual student for their comments, turn the focus to group and community accountability. Remind students of any classroom commitments or guidelines they have agreed to, and to be respectful to others present.

For more guidance on handling difficult discussions in class, sign up for upcoming Calling In workshop (I can schedule this so there can be a link here).

Further resources on difficult dialogues:

Anti-racist teaching strategies:

Anti-racist texts and viewings:

Related resources

Counseling and Consultation Service

Office of Diversity and Inclusion

The Kirwan Institute